The road to the Resch Center for girls basketball begins in earnest next Friday night.
Some regional quarterfinal games take place Tuesday night, but the majority of the schedule for the five divisions tips off Friday.
With that in mind, lets gaze into the crystal ball and see what teams are likely to bring home a gold ball and why.
I’m the first to admit that I probably don’t know a whole lot about the Division 4 and Division 5 brackets, but a lot of times you can factor in program tradition, tournament experience and a star-studded player to help you make your pick.
The teams that make it to state will be seeded 1-4 there, so some of the title games I’m predicting could actually take place in the semifinals, but not even my crystal ball can foresee that.
Hartland Arrowhead garnered all 10 first-place votes in the latest Associated Press state poll and had won 20 straight since losing its season-opener to Oak Creek. That was, until Mukwonago avenged an earlier-season loss by beating Arrowhead on Tuesday night.
Milwaukee King probably has as much talent as anybody but has been too inconsistent to make a run at a state title.
Sun Prairie looked like a strong contender to make a trip to the Resch Center, but the third-ranked Cardinals suffered a devastating blow when senior Carly Coulthart was lost for the season with a knee injury.
I was leaning toward a rematch of the season opener in the state title game, but Mukwonago’s big win Tuesday opened my eyes.
Best guess: Oak Creek 64, Mukwonago 59
Probably the easiest bracket to call. Beaver Dam is not only the best team in D2 but most likely the best team in any division.
The Beavers’ only two losses were to out-of-state teams that are both ranked nationally. Beaver Dam went unbeaten in winning the Badger North title and beat every team on the schedule by at least 20 points, including fourth-ranked Monroe.
Milwaukee Vincent is tall and athletic and may give Beaver Dam its toughest test in what would be a sectional semifinal game.
In the end, I don’t see any team capable of staying close to Beaver Dam for more than a half. I see the Beavers rolling past New Berlin Eisenhower in the title game.
Bes t guess: Beaver Dam 72, New Berlin Eisenhower 56
I’ve had my eye on Marshall all season and for good reason. The Cardinals opened the season with an impressive 41-point win over a Whitewater team coming off four consecutive Rock Valley North titles and have not let up.
The Sun Prairie Sectional is solid, with Marshall leading the way. Defending state champion Madison Edgewood, Walworth Big Foot, Dodgeville and Lakeside Lutheran are also in the sectional, along with Thomas More.
Laconia has been No. 1 all season in the polls and will likely be a very formidable semifinal opponent at state for whomever comes out of the Sun Prairie Sectional.
I see Laconia getting past Marshall in a high-scoring state semifinal game, with the Spartans rolling past Wrightstown in the title game.
Best guess: Laconia 67, Wrightstown 58
The two best teams might both be in the Baraboo Sectional, and both are private schools. Aquinas is unbeaten and has been atop the AP poll all season, while third-ranked St. Mary’s Springs garnered two first-place votes this week.
A former colleague of mine tells me that Aquinas is legit, and that’s good enough for me. Aquinas was state runner-up a year ago.
I’ll take the Blugolds over Marathon in the title game.
Best guess: Aquinas 63, Marathon 55
Will it be Black Hawk down for a state title? The Warriors are unbeaten and collected all 10 first-place votes in the latest AP poll.
No team came within 20 of Black Hawk during the regular season, and look for that to continue in the postseason. The Warriors are averaging 68 points per game and allowing only 28.7.
Best guess: Black Hawk 68, Newman Catholic 28
Here’s a look at three area games, including two that will wrap up the girls regular season this week:
East Troy (14-5, 14-1 Rock Valley) at Evansville (8-11, 7-8), boys, 7:15 p.m., today—The Blue Devils will attempt to play spoiler. The Trojans have a one-game lead over second-place McFarland with three conference games remaining.
This game features the top two scorers in the Rock Valley. Evansville’s Zach Mielke leads the way at 20.9 points per game, and East Troy’s AJ Vukovich is second at 20.3 points.
The Trojans are looking for their eighth straight conference win but have lost all four of their nonconference games.
East Troy gets it done on the offensive end, averaging 69.4 points per game.
Evansville ended a three-game skid Tuesday against Whitewater but suffered its worst loss of the season in a 66-44 defeat at East Troy back in early January.
Best guess: East Troy 68, Evansville 58
Clinton (9-12, 7-10 Rock Valley) at Whitewater (14-7, 12-5), girls, 7:15 p.m., Friday—The Whippets will try to pin down a third-place finish in the Rock Valley.
Clinton lost a close one to Edgerton on Tuesday but was coming off a 73-72 upset win over McFarland last Thursday.
Liz Kalk and Addyson Ciochon both average double figures in scoring for the Cougars, though Ciochon has missed the past six games due to injury. Hannah Welte and Payton Severson are both averaging more than nine points per game.
Whitewater saw its streak of four consecutive conference titles come to an end.
The Whippets have lost two of their last three games but defeated Clinton by 13 the first time the teams played.
Allison Heckert, Kacie Carollo and Abby Grosinske are all averaging double figures in scoring for Whitewater.
Best guess: Whitewater 67, Clinton 55
Union Grove (18-3, 12-1 Southern Lakes) at Lake Geneva Badger (13-7, 9-4), girls, 6 p.m., Friday—The Broncos have already clinched the conference title, while the Badgers are looking to carry momentum into the postseason.
Brooklyn Bull leads the Lakes in scoring at 18.8 points per game and became Union Grove’s all-time leading scorer in a win over Elkhorn on Monday.
Badger picked up its first win of the season against a team over .500 Monday night by beating Wilmot 49-47.
The Badgers are averaging only 39.0 points per game but are six games above .500 because of a strong defense.
Best guess: Union Grove 57, Badger 46
Area Scoring Leaders
Reagan Courier;So.;Big Foot;15.7;26
Courtney Schoenbeck;Sr.;Big Foot;15.0;25
John Barry is a sports writer for The Gazette. Email him at email@example.com